New Marine Conservation Zones Welcomed

27 chosen are just a first step towards a network of conservation sites in English seas, says MCS

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) welcomes today’s announcement by Government of 27 Marine Conservation Zones as a significant milestone for marine conservation in English seas. But the charity recognises that commitment to managing the sites properly, and to designating more sites in future, is essential to ensure that a network is achieved.

MCS says this announcement is a significant step towards stemming the alarming decline in our rich marine biodiversity, ensuring iconic species such as the seahorse, black bream and native oyster, and stunning habitats in places such as Chesil Beach and the Skerries Banks, may be better protected for future generations.

The charity is also pleased to see that the Government has listened to concerns about when future designations will be planned, with consultation on future zones timetabled in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

“This announcement is a significant milestone for marine conservation”, says Melissa Moore, MCS Senior Policy Officer. “We urge Government to bring forward designation of future tranches to prevent many threatened seabed habitats being further damaged – these 27 sites represent less than a quarter of the number recommended by scientists to complete an ‘ecologically coherent’ network.”

MCS will be looking for clarity on the management for these sites, as the Governments commitment to protect marine wildlife will only be delivered if effective measures are put in place to look after them.

“The MCZs will be multi-use, so low-impact fishing such as potting will be permitted in most sites. However, effective regulatory measures may need to be established to protect vulnerable sites from damaging activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling.” Melissa Moore Says. “It is vital that within these sites there is a clear notion of what can and can’t happen, and who is responsible for policing those activities, otherwise we’re just creating paper parks.”

Defra received around 40,000 responses to their consultation to March 31st 2013, with over 5,000 individuals providing their feedback through an online facility on the MCS website www.mcsuk.org, representing around 12.5% of the number received. MCS rallied enormous support for a network of Marine Conservation Zones, organising a march on parliament in February 2013 which was joined by viewers of the TV “Fish Fight”.

The 2013 study ‘A report on the value of Marine Protected Areas in the UK to divers and anglers’ published by the Marine Conservation Society and various partners, shows the value of marine conservation zones far outweighing the costs of designating and managing them.